How to Make a Ship Inside a Bottle

Updated April 17, 2017

Bottle ship building is a popular pursuit for hobbyists around the world and dates back at least to the 1700s. Ship models were originally made by sailors from materials such as ivory and wood and given to friends or family members as gifts. Bottle ships were considered to be especially valuable versions of such gifts.

Select a ship that you would like to replicate in model form. Model ships range from vastly detailed warships to simple sailboats. If it's your first time making a ship inside a bottle, it's best to select a simple design.

Choose a bottle to house your ship. There are several bottle types that can be used to contain models ships. However, bottles with flat bottoms and handblown made are the most appropriate. Ensure your bottle has a cork that fits to the tip too.

Lay the landscape that will surround your ship once it's placed in the bottle. Landscapes are usually constructed from epoxy putty which is applied to the base of the bottle using a syringe or small putty knife. This serves as a base for the boat to rest on. This part of the process requires patience as it can take several weeks for the putty to set.

Choose whether to construct your ship inside or outside of the bottle. Models are typically pieced together in a collapsible structure. This structure is then inserted into the glass bottle and erected using a string mechanism. More complicated models are built one ship area at the time and delicately placed inside the bottle. This method typically requires a lot more prowess than external construction.

Build the ship from the model pieces you've chosen. This is the longest part of the procedure and requires patience and dexterity. Ensure any threads and pulley systems needed to erect the ship are correctly fitted before attempting to place the ship in the bottle.

Move the model into the bottle piece by piece if you have chosen to assemble it in segments, starting from the ship's base and working your way up. Gently push the model into the bottle opening if your ship is already constructed, ensuring the string is still accessible.

Pull the threads and pulleys to erect your model ship. Cut off any excess thread so the ship looks neat and tidy. Place a cork in the bottle top. Your ship in a bottle is now finished.

Things You'll Need

  • Clear bottle with cork
  • Ship model pieces
  • Acrylic or epoxy putty
  • Syringe or putty knife
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About the Author

Wilkie Collins started writing professionally in 2007. She has submitted work for organizations including Venue, an arts-and-culture website for Bristol and Bath (U.K.), and "Sound and Vision," a technology magazine. Collins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and media studies from the University of Bristol.